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Date: 2006/02/20 15:24:28, Link
Author: Spike
In his "Secular Humanist Revival Meeting" from the mid-80's Orson Scott Card (remember him?) predicted that the children of creationists would dam-n their parents for the lies they told. He predicted that not only would they dam-n their parents for the lies they told about science and the world but doubly so for the lies they told about God.

When I was a Christian, I thought people like Ken Ham were wolves in sheep’s' clothing. I knew that what they said had no foundations in the Bible or God's Will. I likened Ken Ham to the kinds of believers Jesus criticized for praying in public and flaunting their "true belief."

Later, on that wonderful Jim Henson TV program, “Dinosaurs,” the Grandmother Dinosaur died and came back. She was talked into doing a TV (DV?) show, telling everyone what “The Other Side” was like, then the host would get the viewers to send in money so they could get to The Other Side. Grandma died again, and was visited by the ghost of her late husband who admonished her, “Anyone who sells The Other Side will never see The Other Side!”

Sometimes, I wish Jesus would come back and smite liars like Ken Ham. The fact that He doesn’t makes me wonder if He is real or not…

Date: 2006/03/31 14:00:55, Link
Author: Spike
This is a very important topic to me, and if we can't talk about it here, where can we? I also like to see people who are otherwise quite rational and non-religious squirm around, commit logical fallacies and rely on very religious-sounding arguments trying to defend their position.

The only scientific, logical, moral and legal conclusion that can be reached is that an embryo in the womb, a zygote, even a fertilized human egg is a legal person with the same rights as a child on the sidewalk. Abortion is murder.

How can I say so? Quite easily.

Scientifically and logically, the fertilized egg is only human. It will not grow into a gazelle or a star fish.

Morally and legally, the babe in arms is a human, deserving of protection from harm. In the birth canal, the babe is not substantially different than moments later. So, going backwards in development, eventually, we reach the fertilized egg, without any specific event that distinguishes it from the babe in the birth canal. Yes, there are gradual changes from fertilized egg to baby ready for birth, but nothing in the embryonic development of a fetus creates a moral difference between one day and the next.

But we already know that scientifically and logically, the fertilized egg is human, so if we withhold moral and legal protection from the egg, then morality and the law are trumping science! Science says person A, standing here, is human, and person B, in the womb, is also human. But the law, following our moral lead, can say that person A is human and person B, while human, doesn't deserve the same protection as person A, because a certain non-scientific milestone has not been passed.

It’s true we already do that even with humans outside of the womb. Some humans are allowed to kill others in self-defense. Some humans are allowed to kill others as punishment for certain crimes. Some humans are allowed to kill others who are designated as political enemies (or just unfortunate bystanders of such actions, a.k.a. "collateral damage").

And some humans are allowed to kill others because the birth of one of those others may be a health threat to the mother, or may just be inconvenient for the mother or some people.

Of course there are natural causes for abortions. They are no more and no less the subject of moral or legal worry than any other natural calamities.

But there is only one moral and legal instance when human-caused abortion is justified: When the mother would likely die from the pregnancy or birth.

All other cases that you will cite are just a matter of inconvenience: Even rape, even incest.

Abortion after rape is moral cowardice because raising a child of a rape would create a wonderful life as the antithesis of the terrible crime.

Incest leads to discussions of developmental disabilities: If there is justification for killing a baby from an incestuous relationship because of the nearly certain potential for developmental disabilities, then there is equal justification for killing a baby tested to have Down’s Syndrome, a crack baby or such. My challenge to the reader is this: Distinguish your arguments from eugenics.

My alternative? If someone wants an abortion: They should be allowed to have it. Then they should be sterilized. The exception would be for abortions to save the mother’s life. This applies to both parents, not just the mother.

Wow! Pretty draconian, huh? How could I say such a thing!

Try this: Since abortion is murder, and our society is willing to incarcerate murderers for life, even to kill them, sterilization is actually a lenient punishment.

The people who chose the abortion, mother and father, have shown that they consider their convenience to be more important than the life of a child, so why not make their lives perfectly convenient? They never have to worry about “untimely accidents” again. If they want kids in the future – adopt! There are lots and lots of perfectly good kids literally dying for a home.

I’ll attempt to cut off some arguments right away: I’m an atheist. I have two kids of my own, and will adopt others in the next five years. I’m neither a “conservative” nor a “liberal,” more like a libertarian. Abortion is not just a women’s issue – That leads to the logical fallacy that the father is responsible for co-raising the child, but has no rights for protecting the child’s life.

If you say that it’s a legal issue, not something to be dealt with in the realm of science -  Then I say legal issues are still founded on the “sciences” of logic and ethics. So make logical and ethical arguments against my conclusions.

Have fun!

Date: 2006/03/31 14:29:21, Link
Author: Spike
Lifeboat ethics! Whoo-hooh!

I'll answer: When it's a choice between a kid standing there and fertilized eggs - I'll go for the kid.

Here's one for you guys:

Your house is burning and your two kids, Ang and Eng are inside. You manage to save Ang, but you know that if you go back, trying to save Eng, you WILL die.

Most parents would go back, orphaning Ang.

Let's make it a little more interesting: Let's say just before you enter the building, you know for certain that if you go in, you will die, but that your orphaned kid will grow up to be a Crack-Dealing Gangsta who votes Republican, but if you live, he will win the Nobel prize in Medicine for curing AIDS. In his speech he will say, "I did it for Eng!"

Now what would you do?

Extra points if you remember two famous people named Ang & Eng.

Double extra points if you know, and answer this question: If you saw Ang & Eng in your womb durin gthe ultrasound (all men are transformed into women for this question) would you have an abortion? Why?

Date: 2006/03/31 14:55:49, Link
Author: Spike

I need to apologize right from the start. I used to be very academically astute with philosophy. I used to know all the various philosophical schools, but I can no longer tell Kant from Spinoza or the Utilitarians. Nowadays, what most people consider axiomatic, I have to have explained to me.

Please explain what it means to "minimize suffering" and where we can draw the line between doing so for the good of the child and mother, and doing so for the mere convenience of the mother.

If you want to argue for functionality, then you'll have to lead me by the hand. I don't really know what that means.

I provided the counter-examples of societally-condoned murder because I figured others would bring them up. But only agree with self-defense and suicide, and only because I want to reserve those rights for myself.

I'm not trying to be coy, or anything. I've just found that if you try to discuss ideas with others starting at the tree-tops, rather than the roots, you end up arguing points that neither person is really making.

I will concede that using "human" in this context is slightly misleading, because human in the scientific sense is different than in the moral and legal sense.

But for those of us who do not receive our morality handed down to us on tablets from a mountain top, we have to use science and logic to at least help us define our moral terms and develop our moral codes. I certainly rely on what I have learned about the world through science to make some of the moral decisions I do. And I try to use logic as well.

Date: 2006/03/31 15:03:54, Link
Author: Spike
Jupe -

If our laws are not determined by morality, then what do we use?

I'm one who maintains that our scientific understanding of the world does color our moral choices. 200 years ago, and less, many people could make scientific arguments for racism, and no one could really counter them because as far as we knew, they were true. Nowadays, the science at least supports the idea that all people are of one race.

Date: 2006/03/31 15:14:03, Link
Author: Spike
Triple extra points for you! - Jupiter :p  :p  :p

Date: 2006/04/03 09:26:05, Link
Author: Spike
Flint said,
In practise, this amounts to choice.

Choice to dispose of someone you find inconvenient.

If economic considerations are sufficient to get rid of unborn babies someone doesn't want, why stop there? There are plenty of people walking around right now that are a burden on "society."

I'm really trying to understand how pro-abortion folks on this thread decide where to draw the line between person and non-person.

If I missed it in the previous posts, please point it out to me.

My morality derives from my rationalist/scientific world view. I ask the other posters on this thread who are rationalists/scientifically minded how they developed their systems of morality.

Date: 2006/04/03 11:12:14, Link
Author: Spike

"Not born, not a person." OK. But not simple.

I've listened to all the arguments about discriminating against babies in the womb and have yet to find one that makes a rational argument for where in the development process to draw the line. So, being a person who prefers to err on the side of caution ragarding the killing of innocents, I go all the way back to conception as the point at which human rights begin.

I think my draconian solution would be as easy to enforce as most other laws we have made. The person wanting the abortion is already in the clinic. It's only a matter of a couple more ligations and sutures to implement sterilization.

Would some people "go underground" because they didn't want to be sterlized? Of course. A solution does not have to be perfect to be better than what we have.

If "convenience to society" really is a valid consideration for why some people's rights can be curtailed, then given the choice between killing a certain class of "inconvenients" and preventing the creation of those "inconvenients" I would opt for the latter.

More directly: Mandatory sterlization is much better for "society" than is abortion.

Readers, don't waste time with non-arguments like, "Well, who would decide who gets sterilized?" I already pointed out that it is a self-selection process. Anyone who wants an abortion-for-convenience can have one, for free, but they must be sterilized afterwards.

Date: 2006/04/03 12:37:24, Link
Author: Spike

actually most scientific evidence points to the fact that you cannot rationalize your morality....

I'm slightly worried about the double meaning of "rationalize." Do you mean it in the sense of "make rational" or the sense of "create reasons to justify what you want to believe."

Because, when it comes to defining the point at which a developing human has the right to not be killed, then there is a lot of "creating of reasons" to justify what people already believe.

It's not a matter of defining when life begins that is the problem. That's actually something that can be worked out quite easily, both on scientific and moral grounds.

What prevents all of us people from agreeing is that we want to rationalize our behavior, rather than change.

Think about it: Even genocidal maniacs believe what they are doing is right and can give you lots and lots of reasons why.


Regarding the question of rational morality: If you are arguing against rational morality, then are you arguing for irrational morality?

When I say "scientific" I do not mean that we can develop a bench test for a certain moral code (all tests have to be in the field). I do mean that we can use the same rational tools that helped us develop the scientific method to develop, for want of a better term, an "ethical method."

I'll give you an example of a rational moral idea: I treat others as I wish for them to treat me. Why? Observation, hypothesis, theory, and "law."

My observation is that most people I deal with have a sense of "fairness" and a desire for egalitarianism. I hypothesize that to utilize that tendency to my benefit, I present my goals in a way that seems fair and egalitarian to the other person: I won't benefit at their expense, instead, we will both benefit.

I experiment with various people and find different levels of success.

I review the results and try to develop other theories to explain why I did not succeed in certain cases. What I come up with is that I did not really understand what the other person wanted from the interaction, so I did not give them what they percieved as a "win."

I formulate a new hypothesis that includes spending more time trying to understand exactly what the other person wants, and figuring out how meet that want so that I benefit also.

I try it out.

It gives me what I want more often than the way I was doing things before.

I repeat this process, improving my ability to understand and my ability to help the other person find solutions.

To be sure, the most fundamental reason that I do what I do is for my own gain. Defining, "my own gain" is also an iterative process. Sometimes I realize after I have put forth a lot of effort to achieve something that I didn't like the result as much as I had anticipated I would!

Even more fundamental than that, I suppose, is explaining why my own gain is a moral good. At that point, you've got me. I have no explanation for why I believe it is right for me to want to make my life better.

Again, my experience is that every other person that I have met wants to make their lives better also. Even people who commit suicide do so because they feel it is better than continuing to experience the pain they are living with right now (physical and/or emotional).*

If the source of our desire to make our lives better were programmed into our selfish genes in a "Dawkinsian" fashion, then we would have a scientific explanation for why we do what we do!

BTW: I draw a distinction between what is better for other individuals and what is better for "society." I only care about other individuals. There is no argument I have heard for doing things "for the good of society" that doesn't include sacrificing the rights of a certain class of people.

*Speaking of suicide. There was a point in my life when I understood why other people would commit suicide. I wish I could explain what prevented me from doing so, because I would offer it to others who are standing on edge of that chasm. Anybode else "been to the edge?" What kept yout from hurling yourself into the abyss?

Date: 2006/04/03 13:31:32, Link
Author: Spike

Wow! Just like I said. People who are normally quite rational get their panties in a bunch when it comes to abortion. (Me too!;)

For your part, you use loaded language to package your idea as “a woman’s reproductive right.” You presuppose that a woman's "right to choose" precludes the baby's right to live.

You have chosen some line in the developmental process at which you say, "On this side, the baby has rights, on that side, nope." How have you decided where to draw the line?

As I said, my draconian proposal is not a perfect solution. The only perfect solution would be to convince every person that abortions-for-convenience are wrong and then every person would choose not to have an abortion. The perfect solution is to prevent all unwanted pregnancies and stop all rapes.

If you know a way to do that, I'll work with you on it.

I do not believe that people who have an abortion enjoy it. I don’t pretend doctors who perform abortions are evil. Right now, our society thinks abortions are OK. So most people (baaa-baaa) go along with the crowd. I used to feel the same way. But the more I tried to defend the pro-abortion position, the less rational support I could find for it.

I don't believe that any person (including me) has a right to squirt out little "mini-me's" all over the place. Just because someone can do something doesn’t make it a right.

I can counter any argument about “This is not the right time,” or “The parents are too poor,” or “Why should the rape victim have to raise the rapists child?” with real-life examples of parents who do a good job in spite of those obstacles, and more. Here’s one: In my son’s preschool is a little white-skinned girl with two white-skinned mothers, who are married to each other, and have adopted two dark-brown-skinned babies to be the little girl’s brother and sister. Are you going to tell me, in all your prescience, that those two adoptees would have been better off aborted? If so, you’ll have to come up with some pretty good arguments against two lesbian mothers of a different “race” as parents.

In my first post, I defined abortions-for-convenience as those not required to prevent the death of the mother. That seems pretty unambiguous to me. Do you have some common occurrences when you cannot distinguish between "prevent the death of the mother" and other reasons people use for abortions?

If the Golden Rule is important to you, why do you withhold it from little kids just because they do not measure up to your arbitrary definition of human?

There’s the irony: “Hey you! There in the womb! I’m on the outside, living my life, so I can say that you don’t get to live yours beyond today.”

Date: 2006/04/03 14:21:22, Link
Author: Spike
From the perspective of the fundamentalist Christians, abortion may be a wedge issue. They may want to end abortions because they want to curtail women's reproductive rights and turn back the clock to the age of June Cleaver (or worse).

I don't.

Remember, I am an atheist. And I have no political dog in the fight. Most libertarians think the government should have no say regarding abortions. I agree. Specifically, I think the government should neither protect nor deny abortions. Instead, the government should protect the doctor’s right to ply her trade as she sees fit, and the patient’s right to choose the doctor the patient wants.

My draconian solution is not a law that I propose, but an interim social norm, while we move toward the ideal of preventing all unwanted pregnancies. Doctors should be allowed to offer abortions under the terms they specify.

This is the way I view the issue of “women’s reproductive rights:” A woman can do anything she wants to prevent pregnancy. She has every right, regardless of whether or not she is married, to tell the man what he should do to help. Women certainly bear the greater burden, so they should have the greater say. They have the absolute, inalienable right, when it comes to preventing pregnancy, to say, “My way or the highway.”

But what about the situation when the woman wants the abortion and the man does not? Do we say the man has no rights to let his child live? If anybody else killed his child, even in the womb, they would be murderers, plain and simple. Why does the mother get off without even a slap on the wrist?

We mostly agree that once the child is born, the man has the obligation to at least provide some financial support. But are we really going to say, “Hey, even though this was a mutual encounter, you, Mr. Man, have no right to decide how it turns out. If the woman wants to abort: You’re outta luck. If she wants to keep it and take it away from you, again, sorry, Charlie. The baby resides in her body, so she can decide its fate.” ?

Date: 2006/04/03 14:34:41, Link
Author: Spike

Economists and criminologists and demographers spent some considerable research trying to learn why certain types of violent crimes went WAY down (cut in half! during the 1990s and then stayed down. Exhaustive analysis has provided the answer: the cohort of people who committed those crimes -- poor, bad neighborhoods, lots of drugs, high unemployment, gangs -- *were not born* because they were aborted. In other words, only WANTED children were born. They are better off, and everyone around them is better off. Abortion has without question been a social boon.

Two points:

1. Do you have any citiations to orginal research other than the one paper by the fellow who writes the "Freakonomics" column?

2. When does a social boon trump individual rights?

a pregnant woman is not a mother of a fetus. She becomes a mother of a child at birth. Not before

This is yet another arbitrary definition you've pulled out of your ear.

we have granted equality and human rights to all citizens

Except the ones from whom we withhold equality and human rights by virtue of legal mumbo-jumbo.

Am I a religious fanatic, too?

Date: 2006/04/03 15:17:33, Link
Author: Spike

Some people believe that if morality does not involve choice, then it is not morality at all. "Instinctive morality" is an oxymoron.

The trouble with claiming that the acts of animals are moral is that we do not have any way to determine why they do what they do. Everything an animal does, even when it resembles reasoning, we treat as an unreasoned event. A chimp cannot, of its own accord, learn to ride a tricycle. We can teach it, but no matter how fun the chimp thinks tricycling is, once returned to the wild, the chimp won't collect parts and try to assemble a trike. (Or maybe it will? I wonder if anyone has tried that experiment.)

I'll even side with Koko's supporters who said she made up new combinations of signs to communicate original ideas. But to this point in time, no animals have successfully initiated protracted discussion of animal moral codes with humans.

However, think about male lions. Perhaps there is new evidence to the contrary, but I learned that if a new male lion defeats the old pride leader, the new male will kill all the cubs, because the new male has no genetic stake in their survival. The females will not prevent the "mass murder" of their babies because, genetically speaking, the females will still have the same genetic stake in the new offspring (50%) and the risk of being killed themselves is greater than the energy investment they've made so far. At least that is what I recall from Dawkins.

We certainly don't call the adult lions immoral for behaving as lions. But if a human were to do the same, we'd lock him up and throw away the key, and we may even be in the ironic situation of defending that murderer's life against those who would seek vengence.

Sociopaths are a great study tool. It's much easier to study a characteristic when you can compare subject A with the characteristic to subject B without it.

But I agree, our moral codes have evolved, in the broad sense of changed over time. Even in the more narrow sense of "improved" over time. But there was some threshold we passed that set us on the path where instinct fails us and we must rely on our deliberate cognition.

When I talk about science in this context, I use it broadly to mean "looking at the world and trying to understand it. Trying to figure out why x, y and z happened so we can predict a, b, and c." That includes trying to figure out why people do what they do.

But why bother? Why even worry about figuring things out, unless we derive some personal good from the knowledge? Sometimes the personal good is just knowing (for some people, the personal good is avoiding knowing! ??? ) But most of the time we want to know how things work so we can manipulate and/or influence them for our own gain.

Morality exists for that very purpose.

If people could never be influenced to change their behaviors, and we knew that without doubt, morality would be superflous.

But the purpose of moral arguments is to try to get others to behave a certain way. We even have to argue about which moral codes others should follow so that we can get them to follow the ones we like best (because they help us the most).

So we study: What moral codes to people adopt, and how to they decide which ones they will follow?

Humans are social beings. But we devote the majority of our energy trying to get the rest of society to do things the way we want.

I think the people who are the happiest are not the ones trying to play Archimedes and looking for the longest lever, I think the ones who get what they want the most often are like surfers, watching the way the tide is flowing and riding it to where they want to go.

Date: 2006/04/03 17:03:57, Link
Author: Spike

I think I'll have get the book and see for myself, because the footnotes may be to the data.

What the frick are the "needs of society"? People use this phrase all the time, and I have never been able to figure out what they mean. As far as I can tell, the "needs of society" is what people invoke when they have run out of reasons.

We used to have to do what gods told us to.

Then we had to do what kings told us to.

Now we have to do what society tells us to.

The "needs of society" argument always seems to define society's needs as any but my own.

Mother: 1. A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child.

[Emphasis added]

I suppose it depends on where you look to find the definition you want!


Finding the definitions you want is what this is argument is all about.

thordaddy and I define the fertilized egg as a human being, deserving of the same human rights as you and you and you.

The pro-abortion crowd relies on "good of society" arguments, selective applications of "a woman's right" and various legal definitions.

Here is my challenge: Forget about all the bull-hocky politics and the persuasive definitions that lead people to the conclusions they want to reach.

[I'll try and use emotionless, unloaded language]

Inside the womb, a fertilized egg is developing.

At some time in its development, we all agree, this fertilized egg will transform into a human being and have the exact same right to not be killed as all the other human beings around it.

The pro-abortion crowd has many different time-points along the developmental continuum that they choose as the moment of personhood.

So far, I've read when abortion can be permitted, and when it must not be, but no argument for why that timepoint is the correct one.

I think I've done my best to explain why I choose conception as the beginning of a legal, human life: Because I can make no rational argument for any other timepoint. I realize it's not much. I have applied Occam's razor and cut away all the complexity from all the other argmuents. It is the least ambigous moment.

In a sense, the reason I pick conception is the same reason I pick atheism. I cannot make any rational argument for the existence of god(s), so I have to choose the option with the least ambiguity: There are none.

If you can rationally defend another time for defining the developing egg as a legal human, please do so. Please tell me why that moment in time precludes all other arguments.

My challenge presupposes that a rational argument can be made. If none can, then I guess it really is just a matter of who has the bigger gang (majority vote).

I've written all I can. Everything else is just beating about the bush.

Date: 2006/04/03 18:34:05, Link
Author: Spike

I was typing while PuckSR was...

I'll address the issues PuckSR has raised, then I'll shut up.

but my argument is that a lot of what your terming "morality" is just instinct....

And I tried to point out that your examples are not of "moral" acts, because a chimp can only do what chimps do, based on their chimpy instinct, a lion can only do what lions do, based on their liony instinct, etc. all throughout the animal kingdom.

By applying the scientific method, we can determine exactly what the limits are of chimp behavior, lion behavior, etc. [Trying as hard as possible not to become part of the experiment]. And once we've done so, then we can predict how chimps will react when they encounter the natural events of their chimpy worlds.

As you pointed out, humans, on the other hand, can react in nearly an infinite variety of ways when they encounter the same events. You describe how different societies apply capital punishment, even when they are equally "advanced," whatever that means.

I counter with this: Capital punishment, abortion, death with dignity, euthanasia, even traffic laws are not the cause, they are the symptoms.

Moral codes and their practical applications know as laws and societal norms are, as you-all have pointed out quite accurately, a product of social interaction. If you are all alone on a desert island, morality and law are irrelevant.

The place that I see tension is between the individual and the state, which I define as any governmental system.

In societies where the state prevails there are almost no human rights, especially for weaker members of the group. The laws range from punishing entire ethnicities for the supposed transgressions of a few, to punishing individual evil-doers for just not fitting in. The harshness of the punishments is an inverse relation to the ability of the members of the group to defend themselves from the force of the law.

In societies where individuals prevail, we have nearly perfect human rights. Those rights are codified in an objective law that any member of society can read and apply. Those laws do clearly demarcate where one person’s rights end and another person’s rights begin.

Societies with objective moral codes tend to develop more individual protections than those with subjective moral codes – as thordaddy tried to point out - laws result from the moral codes of the members of the society. If the moral codes change, then the laws change.

So here is what I propose as the “perfect” moral code and basis for all laws: The rights of the individual are paramount but not infinite. The purpose of law is to define the limits to other people’s behavior so they do not trample your rights. But the rights defended by the law are very few:

Your life is your own to dispose of as you please.
The fruits of your labor belong to you.
You can enter and exit any contractual relations you choose, whenever you choose.
You can say or do anything you like so long as you don’t interfere with the rights of others to do the above.

If you compare all the other laws and moral codes that exist to these, you will see that they all subject the individual to some arbitrary tyranny in the name of gods or “society.” Everything else is just some people trying to benefit at the expense of others.

We try to defend the rights of minorities. What minority deserves more defense than the minority of one?

We promote democracy. What is more democratic than ruling yourself without interference from others?

******** (When I put in stars like this I mean to address all readers, not just the first person I replied to.)

How does this apply to abortion? If the life of the baby is a threat to the mother’s life (not just her comfort), then the baby must go. You say the baby is innocent and should live. But if the mother dies while carrying the baby, how will the baby live?

In all other instances, the mother is violating the rights of the child.

People can try to define the child away. People can say anything they want. People can even get the bigger gang to agree with them, using force to implement their will. But, in the end, people are just sacrificing those who cannot defend themselves from the state for the benefit of an arbitrarily selected group: Women who want abortions.

But this is one idea we “as a society” have correct: Just because you want something, doesn’t make it a right.

You still have to define the time at which human life begins and rationally defend your choice.

[Sorry, ericmurphy, you may try to uncouple your ethics from reality, but the science of ethics is just as much a science as chemistry or biology. It just has a different subject and different tools.]

Date: 2006/04/05 14:14:13, Link
Author: Spike
intolerance of ambiguity constituted a general personality variable that related positively to prejudice as well as to more general social and cognitive variables.

Poor William of Occam! His razor was sharpened on his general personality variable!

Occam's razor is a logical principle attributed to the mediaeval philosopher William of Occam (or Ockham). The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony. It underlies all scientific modelling and theory building. It admonishes us to choose from a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon the simplest one. In any given model, Occam's razor helps us to "shave off" those concepts, variables or constructs that are not really needed to explain the phenomenon. By doing that, developing the model will become much easier, and there is less chance of introducing inconsistencies, ambiguities and redundancies.

[Emphasis added]


Isn't it great how you can find any kind of quote to support any kind of point of view you want to hold?

Date: 2006/04/05 16:52:28, Link
Author: Spike
Hey! I want to debate the myth that "poor people" will never get an "education" unless we force fundie kids to stay in government schools!

It's really kind of funny when you hear people who think we should have freedom of and from religion, freedom of association and freedom of expression say we can't let people choose how to educate their kids because they might teach them something that we think is bullsh**.

It's also funny to hear people who think using taxes for religious idoctrination is evil, but using taxes for their particular educational indoctrination is A-OK.

All religions are wrong. They are all founded on something their practitioners pulled out of their ears.

Can I prove it?

Yep: If there is any god who thinks what I write is false, make me disappear right now!


Ooops! I'm still here! [Of course, now we'll hear lots of excuses why god stayed her/its/his/their hand(s)]

But so what if all religions are wrong? People have the right to be wrong.

People's educational agenda is a direct reflection of how they want to shape "society" (which is everyone else but them):
Liberals want to educate everyone to believe a just society enforces equality.
Conservatives want to educate everyone to believe a just society enforces elitism.
Greens want to educate everyone to believe a just society enforces environmental protection.
Libertarians want to educate society to believe a just society just leaves people alone.

Can you guess my educational agenda?

So, let's say we dismantled the government educational system and let people design schools however they like.

Would some people make schools that taught their kids only their religious ideals? Most certainly. They already exist.

Would some people make schools that taught their kids science? Most certainly. They already exist.

Would some people make schools that focused on helping "poor" kids learn how to play the capitalist game better than their parents did so they'd have more money? Most certainly. They already exist.

But there are lots of other kinds of schools that people would develop if they were allowed to spend their educational dollars as they wanted and were freed from government-imposed educational standards. Many would incorporate educational ideas that we haven't even thought of yet. Then other people would look at those new kinds of schools and decide which ones they liked, and which ones they didn't. The ones that educated kids the way most people wanted their kids educated would get lots of students. The ones that didn't, wouldn't.

Sounds pretty democratic to me.

Date: 2006/04/05 17:29:26, Link
Author: Spike

"Not all of life comes down to yes/no answers." Is that statement true or untrue? If true, is it always true? Yes or no?

"Have you stopped beating your wife?" has no answer because it is meaningless. Just because you can assemble words into a sentence doesn't make the sentence meaningful.

For example:

The following sentence is true.
The preceding sentence is false.

Sicence is founded on yes/no questions. When you develop a test of a particular hypothesis for a "yes", you have to develop a null (no) hypothesis. All experiments consist of answering yes/no questions: Does x exist? Does x cause y? Does changing x change y? Did the experiment answer the question or not?

All moral tests are a choice between good and bad. Yes or no. Even for people who practice moral relativity, the question of good or bad, yes or no, is answerd one way or the other at this time, in this place, under these circumstances.

That doesn't mean more information won't change your no into a yes.


So, when the pro-abortion crowd presents rational arguments for why killing a baby in the womb who is not a threat to the mother's life is not murder, I will say "yes" to abortion.

I looked through the previous posts, I couldn't find anything but definitions created/selected to reach the conclusions the definers wanted, variations on the arguments for comfort or convenience, or variations on the argument from ignorance: "We don't even know if the baby meets these criteria for being a person, so it's OK to kill it."

Date: 2006/04/06 12:48:28, Link
Author: Spike
I was trolling a little, I'll admit, but improvious and GCT came back with some pretty good answers.

GCT: The only problem is that homeschooling parents still have to fork over their hard-earned money to educate other people's kids. It would be much more just to only charge school taxes from people who want to send their kids to government schools.

improv.: A balance between what and what? You mentioned civic responsibility, but someone's political philosophy will determine what they think their civic responsibility is, then they will try to get their version of education made into the "objective" standard, because they'll want to educate everyone else to comply with their idea of civic responsibility.

My idea of civic responsibility is to not use the government to force others to grant my wishes. When I want others to grant my wishes, I can try to influence them to do so, but my right to get others to comply ends when I can't convince them to do what I want.

Some believers think that the government is forcing their kids to learn the "religion of secular humanism." They then try to gain control of running those government schools in order to force everyone else's kids to learn creationism. So we have to fight them in the shool boards and in the courts, wasting time and money.

I'll bet if you did a cost/benefit analysis, you'd find that the money gained from taxing fundies to pay for government education is more than lost trying to keep fundie educational goals out of the cirriculum. That certainly applies to the unlucky Dover district.

So we should set them free. If they were not paying for government schools, then they'd have no say in the running of those schools. The issue would become moot.

Speaking more generally. I've heard people worrying that the Bush administration is trying to dismantle the public school system. But the supporters of the Bush adminsitration are actually a minority of all Americans, aren't they? If so, even if this administration succeeded, wouldn't most people get together and set up non-governmental schools preserving the best of what we have now?

We're both guessing. If I believed polls actually produced quality data, I'd conduct a poll asking parents what they want their kids to learn. I think we'd find that only a very few would want their kids to learn things that you and I, improvious, would not agree with.

Parents who do want their kids to learn creationism send those kids to Ken Ham gatherings anyway, to get brainwashed into disrupting education for other kids.

So, let's be rid of them.

Date: 2006/04/06 13:56:58, Link
Author: Spike

Just 'cause it's so fun to draw you along, I'll keep going, even though you feel compelled to throw in ad homimens. Why do you do that? To make yourself feel better about your inability to develop a coherent argument?

Have you never conducted a scientific experiment? Have you never formulated a scientific hypothesis?

The first question underlying the investigation into the speed of light is: “Does light have speed? Yes or no?”

If we say, “Yes, speed is a quality of light,” then the next question is, "Can we detect it? Yes or no?"

Then, after we've answered the fundamental yes/no questions, can we ask the How?, What?, When?, Where?, Why?, and Who? questions.

It applies to the question of my favorite color as well. First you have to ask the yes/no question: “Do you have a favorite color?” You may not do so explicitly, but it is implicit in asking what that favorite color is.

You even said so when you talked about the wife beating question. The only way that the question “Have your stopped beating your wife?” can have meaning is if the answer to the underlying question of “Do you beat your wife?” is “Yes.”

You even said so when you talked about the North Pole. Only when the answer to the underlying question of “Are we at the north pole?” is “Yes,” is the answer to, “What’s north of here?” “Nothing.”

No matter what qualities, attributes, or values you ask about, the fundamental yes/no question is, “Does this thing have the quality, attribute or value we are looking for? Yes or no?”

Fundamental and underlying, that’s what things “come down to.”

Your example of the dog is exactly what I was talking about regarding morality. At this time, killing my dog is wrong. At this other time, after the circumstances of my dog's health have changed, and I know it, killing my dog is right.

My exact words were: “That doesn't mean more information won't change your no into a yes.”

Why did you quote mine me?

Date: 2006/04/06 14:22:51, Link
Author: Spike

I know that many people who are not religious fundamentalists homeschool their kids. Until my wife made it big in her network marketing business, I was planning to homeschool mine, and I'm pretty much the opposite of a religious fundamentalist.

Now that we're rich, the fact that I'm paying taxes to educate other people's kids doesn't bother me as much. I'll send my kids to the private secular schools of my choice, and not have to worry about teachers trying to foist "Of Pandas and People" onto my kids. (If my kids find it on thier own, I won't stop them from reading it. Of course, they'll be smart enough to see through the hooey.)

The fact that there are so many people opting out of the government school system, for so many different reasons, leads me to believe that there is a big gap between what the government offers and what people want. That's because the government has no business controlling educational offerings in the first place. We should all be allowed to find the best education for our kids that we want based on what we understand will help them prosper.

[I don't know what protests you are referring to. You'll have to send me a message or start another thread with links to news stories or something.]

When it comes to budgetary and economic claims of different administrations, I ask people to cite relevant documents. As far as I am concerned, all claims are spin until proven otherwise.

Date: 2006/04/07 11:32:07, Link
Author: Spike

Well, you've changed what you are saying in our conversation.

The initial discussion is if life comes down to yes/no questions.

Fundamental questions. Underlying questions. Not ALL questions.

That's the only thing I was talking about.

No wonder you can't make coherent arguments. You keep changing what you're talking about.

You are not worth the effort of continuing a conversation with.

Date: 2006/04/07 12:27:09, Link
Author: Spike

Perhaps I should change my choice of words. If you read the "cutting them loose" portion as having greater weight than the "freedom of choice, freedom to educate their own kids as they see fit" portion, then I've misdirected your attention.

Let's compare two political systems.

In the system I propose, no one pays taxes for schools. You and others who agree with you put as much money as you can into the schools that are educating kids the way you want.

Let's say you can comfortably give $1,000 a year to the education of other people's kids.

Your $1,000 -> Good Schools -> Good education for kids.

In the current system, some of your education taxes are going to good schools, some to bad, and some going who-knows-where. If you want to change where your money goes, you have to spend more money and time trying to influence the political process to get politicians and adminsitrators to listen and then hope they will do what you want.

Your $250 -> Somebody's pocket -X- Kids

Your $250 -> Bad Schools -> Bad education for kids

Your $250 -> Good Schools -> Good education for kids

Your $250 -> Political process to try to counteract the waste of your $500.

[My numbers are pure speculation. I do not know how your education dollars get spent. Do you? When I try to find out how my school district and state distribute school money, I feel like I'm reading DembskiMath™.]

Of these two systems, which gives you the most direct control over how your money is spent?

If you believe you know a good way to educate kids, wouldn't you want to get the most leverage out of your time and money?

Now a little rant. Just my frustration with the knee jerk reaction most people have against doing away with government schools: Many people complain about the state of education in America. Most people complain that kids aren't learning enough to become competitive in the global workforce. Some complain that there is too much social engineering going on at school that counters the social engineering they are trying to do at home. Some complain that the schools are treating kids of group X badly. Some complain that they are treating kids of group Y too well.

But few people take the intitiative to educate their kids better or to help others do so. I applaud all the people who do take time to volunteer in schools and non-school educational settings such as this:

National Science Decathlon

Why not just dispense with the interference from the government altogether? Then the efforts of the dedicated wouldn't be diluted or countermanded as they are now.

Rant ends.

I'm going to try to stop posting -again- I was good for a month. I'm going out to practice what I preach.

I hope I see you out there, everyone.

Date: 2006/04/07 12:58:45, Link
Author: Spike
I admit, I do sometimes suffer from that affliction known as "needing to have the last word." But, after this post, em can have the last words:

"Not all of life comes down to yes/no answers."

=/ "All questions have yes/no answers."

You won't even read your own posts.

I also like the way you've brushed off the entire human endeavor known as Ontology with this statement:

But what would be a more "fundamental" question? Does a virus "exist"? I guess that's a yes/no kind of question, but it's beyond fundamental, it's just kind of pointless to ask in the first place. Most of your examples of "fundamental" questions (does light have a speed?) are pretty pointless, and generally go without saying.

Date: 2006/05/16 08:33:54, Link
Author: Spike
Based on some discussion at Pharyngula regarding abortion and morality, ( ) I have been thinking about the comment that there is no such thing as an objective moral code. Poppycock!

I believe that an objective moral code can be developed by applying methodologies similar to science. One can observe the way people behave and the consequences of their behavior. One can judge how beneficial those behaviors are to the people and try to figure out principles that apply to the observed events. The result is a moral code that is derived from the natural world. One does not need to have a degree from a prestigious university to develop a worthwhile, objective moral code; you just have to decide to do it using the methodology outlined above.

Imagine a "moral ladder,"

The first rung: Protect your life and help innocents protect theirs.

The second rung: Protect your body, intellect and emotions and help innocents protect theirs.

Third: Protect your property and help innocents protect theirs.

Fourth: Restore those you have harmed and help innocents be restored by those who have harmed them.

Fifth: Cooperate when it is mutually beneficial.

Sixth: Explore and understand the universe.

Seventh: Enjoy yourself!

One upright of the ladder is "Protect your liberty and help innocents protect theirs."

The other is "Protect your integrity and help innocents protect theirs."

Liberty and Integrity are the two uprights because none of the moral "rungs" can stand up without them.

I believe this moral code is objective because every person who follows it will benefit. Every moral problem can be addressed by referring to this moral code. I don't mean that every moral problem is readily solvable to everyone's satisfaction by applying it, because each person has their own idea of how to protect themselves and others. But that’s what discussion is for – to work out the meaning of the code and when and how to apply it. Which is why I’m posting it here: To get your reaction and see how it can be improved.

I believe this code is objective because it has natural consequences. No government, culture or religion is required to benefit from this moral code. Governments are useful in helping objectify the meaning and application of moral codes, helping you protect yourself and others, and providing forums for the resolution of disputes. Culture is useful when it comes to moral codes for informally doing the same things as government – actually, culture comes first and governmental ideals are developed from cultural ones. Religion is just superfluous.

So please, tell me why this code could not be used by every person on earth. Tell me a case where it would not apply.

Date: 2006/05/18 14:44:11, Link
Author: Spike


Perhaps I don't understand what determinism is, so if I'm misreading your post, I apologize in advance.

I do agree that there are some people with physical limits to their their ability to think or to act on their thoughts - the way I wrote my post doesn't take these people into account. But because these kinds of people exsit is why we who can act freely need to help protect the innocents who cannot protect themselves. If this were not true, then no one would ever have a moral obligation to help developmentally disabled people, children who were drugged to fight as soldiers, or slaves, for example.

But regarding all the other factors - which religion we were brought up in, which culture, which family - we can behave in ways that surpass, or fall short of our upbringing. Some religionists become free thinkers, some atheists convert to religion, kids raised by bigoted parents grow up to fight racism, and some Quaker kids eventually end up in the military, to name a few examples.

I certainly don't expct that everyone will be moral, all the time. If you know of such a person, who is living, please point that one out to me - I'd become their student!

Date: 2006/05/19 01:17:16, Link
Author: Spike

I certainly don't expct that everyone will be moral, all the time. If you know of such a person, who is living, please point that one out to me - I'd become their student!  

how would one go about finding such a person?

sir_toejam: Perhaps by acting as Diogenes and wandering around Athens with a lamp looking for an honest face?

You and others keep asserting that morality is relative. I don't buy it. There is no objective argument that proves morality to be relative.

People who enjoy S&M can do so without too much worry, so long as both participants are willing, but if someone performs sadistic acts on another who is unwilling, we consider the sadist to be evil and do everything we can to stop them. (If any reader disagrees, pelase defend your reasoning.)

If morality is relative means all moral decisions are equally valid, then anything goes. No matter what I do to you, you have no recourse. My morality is just as good as yours, so you have no reason to feel peevish if I take your stuff, shoot your dog, eat your children, or torch your home.

BWE: I don't really ahve any frustration with fundamentalists religionist moral codes, other that the fact that the religionist moral codes suffer from their foundation on a false belief - that they were handed down from on high by a prefectly moral being and are therefore immutable. I'm not really frustrated with this, it's just incorrect.

My frustration is more with others in the free-thinking community when they make the claim that morality is relative - for the reasons I noted above.

I believe that we can discover objective moral truths, in the same way that we have discovered objective scientific ones. I believe this is so because our minds are part of our material bodies, and are, therefore, a natural phenomenon. And, so far, whenever we are trying to figure out natrual phemomena, we have been very successful using techniques that lead to objective descriptions - well, that sentence reads like shit.

Try again: Our minds are either a natural occurence or a supernatural one. If supernatural, then all bets are off, because anything could be true. If natural, then our minds are decipherable through natural means, just like all the other natural things around us. If this is so, then just like physiologists can figure out the ranges of nutrition and exercise that help our bodies prosper, moral philosophers can figure out the range of behaviors that help our intellects and emotions prosper. But, just like we don't have to wait to eat until we have consulted with a nutritionist, we don't have to wait to act until we have consulted with a moral philosopher. We can use our own minds as much as possible to figure out what is moral and what is not.

If this is untrue, please help me to see how.

beervolcano: I think you are mistaken regarding your expectation of an objective moral code. I already said that defining the terms was a matter of discussion. We have to talk about who is innocent and who causes harm and what it means to be harmed. Much of this discussion is embodied in the philosophy of law.

The fact that we do create laws and discuss their applicability is evidence to me that we are interested in objective standards for these things.

I already said that an objective moral code isn't absolutist, it doesn't mean that everybody protects their life in the exact same way, or that everyone values the same material goods, or that everyone enjoys the same things (even monks enjoy their aestheticism).

An objective moral code is a collection of observed behaviors that tend to lead to the result of human happiness. Is happiness different for different people? Yes, there is a wide range of what makes people happy, but the fact is that every single person strives for it, even if their happiness comes from physical pain and suffering. When the rest of us step in, is when some inflict physical pain and suffering on others who did not volunteer for it.

But people's moral strength ebbs and flows. Right now, I'd say Americans have very little moral strength because of the pain and suffering we allow our government and businesses to inflict on others who have done us no harm. And even you know what it means to be harmed.

Date: 2006/05/19 07:08:31, Link
Author: Spike

As I mentioned above - if morality is relative and the cannibal came to your house for dinner, there is no argument you could make that would keep you out of the pot and you would have no reason to feel bad looking out at the world from the cannibal's tummy.

I read the site you linked, and did some more research, eventually finding this summary of the ideas of Robert Kane who seems to be a compatibalist who believes that some things are determined and some things are undertermined, but not random, and it's the choices we make when our minds are in indeterminate turmoil that is the exercise of our free will.

My beef with hard determinism is that, if true, then the circumstances of my past and environment combined to make be believe in free will. That's fine. There is nothing that requires determinism to lead us to valid beliefs, as far as I have seen.  But it pretty much precludes any chance that I will be swayed by hard determinist arguments, because changing my mind would be going against my nature, wouldn't it?

If hard determinism is true, then morality is not relative at all, because any person under the same circumstances with the same background would make the same moral choice. That seems pretty objective to me, much like a law of science. But if hard determinism is not true, then we do need objective morality to help us through the moral conflicts, because an objective morality can serve as a reference.

Also, if hard determinism is true, then the hard determinists deserve no credit for their ideas, because anybody could have come up with those ideas under the same circumstances. All papers authored by hard determinists should be signed, "Written not by my hand, but by the laws of nature."

Date: 2006/05/19 11:08:58, Link
Author: Spike
I've gone to:

Naturalism Philosophy Forum

I'm done here. If you want to chat more, come on over! :)  :p  :O  :angry:  ;)  :(  :D  ???

Date: 2006/06/07 09:52:54, Link
Author: Spike
This rather interesting strategy in light of Jack Krebs' post to PT today.

If Lenny's strategy were adopted in KS, then all the schools would -have to- use the crappy KBOE state standards, rather than the non-approved but recommended standards of the legally disbanded SSWC.

Not a bad thing, perhaps, because as it stands, the KBOE can push the creationist agenda without much worry of the consequences. If their standards -were- being used, then I'm pretty sure some rational parents would file a suit in the same vein as Kitzmiller (Can't cite it as precedent, since it's not the same Federal Circuit). The parents may be able to name the KBOE in the suit, thereby, finally, making them responsible for their shenanigans.

The downside would be the cost to the school district where the suit was filed, unless the ACLU were to act like good citizens and waive their fees (as they ought to do for Dover).

Date: 2006/06/07 11:28:15, Link
Author: Spike
I like how Bush qualified, "The people must be heard," with, "on this issue," lest people think he believes the people must be heard on all issues.

This is a good one too:

Hatch fumed: “Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?”

Hey, Orren, bigots are as bigots do. And, besides, it wasn't "over half," otherwise it would have gone to cloture!

(Who keeps voting for this idiot?)

We have been somewhat lucky in our State of Washington regarding this issue, since our legislature did the right thing and extended the language of some of our non-discriminatory laws to include not only gays and lesbians, but also transgender folks.

(Speaking of bigots: There were some folks who tried to get the law repealed via initiative. Fortunately, they could not get enough signatures for the initiative to go onto the ballot.)

Our two Democrats voted, "Nay." (Lucky for them.)

Date: 2006/06/07 12:30:26, Link
Author: Spike
Dare I respond?

Consanguinity is irrelevant when talking about homosexuals, isn't it?

I personally think that if someone can handle more than one spouse, go for it!

Date: 2006/06/07 15:02:21, Link
Author: Spike
If people become randomly married to each other, will they be able to divorce? Or will that go out the window as well? If it does, then the moral conservatives will at least have won -that- battle.

Being in an atheist marriage at this point is probably better than being in a fundie xtian one. The fx's think gay marriage will cause theirs to fall apart. I know it will have no adverse effect on mine.


How do I write a poll? I'd like to find out how many wives men honestly think they can handle. The ones who have never been married will probably vote for 5, 6, or 7. The ones who are married will ask, "Is there a vote for less than one?"

Date: 2006/06/07 16:35:10, Link
Author: Spike

So much for protecting the American Family.

I hope that you and others are documenting these "government failures" and sounding off about them throughout the state.

Perhaps some lawsuits are in the wings?

Date: 2006/06/07 17:15:20, Link
Author: Spike

I took a look at that, too. If my post is not trash-canned, then -this- post will be redundant.

I said that I thought it was a good way to help people understand that some things can look designed, even when they are not.

Date: 2006/06/08 12:02:32, Link
Author: Spike
Didn't Dr. Laura watch that episode of "West Wing" where they had a Dr. Laura character on and the POTUS said almost the -exact same thing-?

See? It's not just Xtain Fundies.

Fundmentalism is a disease that does not discriminate.

(Yes. You can have fun with that ironic statement.)

Date: 2006/06/08 12:10:43, Link
Author: Spike
Hey! I was "Flood Controlled" just now!


I speak every language but Greek.

(and you already know the punchline)

Date: 2006/06/08 12:24:12, Link
Author: Spike
Well, it's the exact same schtick used by Hovind, Ham and The Wedge: Belief in evolution has led the West into depravity. (The East has always been depraved to the extent that they are not Xtian).

Date: 2006/06/08 16:10:20, Link
Author: Spike
My favorite bits are this:

F.A. Hayek long ago recognized the phenomenon of "spontaneous order" and described how it arose in markets, families, and other social institutions. Now, ingenious computer models are confirming Hayek's insights. It is increasingly obvious that social systems, from commerce to language, evolve and adapt without the need for top-down planning and organization. Order in markets is generated through processes analogous to Darwinian natural selection in biology. In other words, we can indeed have apparent design without a designer; the world is demonstrably brimming with just such phenomena.

and this

But as one social welfare program after another succumbed to its unintended consequences, they recognized the limits of governmental intervention.

However, based on jupiter's post, what it seems has replaced the neo-cons' recognition of the limits of governmental intervention is an attitude of, "We recoginze the limits, but don't care, 'cause we know what's best for all of you!"

When did the neo-cons become Liberals?

Date: 2006/06/08 16:26:15, Link
Author: Spike
My question is how suspicious of science should we be if it could be said that 96% of scientists are also political liberals?

Well, that's the cool thing about science: The results are completely independent of the scientist's political beliefs.

I am nothing like a (modern) policital liberal, and yet, when I conduct biological experiments I get the exact same results as my politically conservative and liberal collegues.

When you play basketball do you always pass the ball to your opponent when he is under his basket?

Date: 2006/06/08 17:07:38, Link
Author: Spike

I recognize that the author is probably a conservative (considering the original source of the article: Reason magazine, a conservative rag that bills itself as libertarian) and the folks he writes about are neo-cons.

I make my own assessment of liberals based on the policies they promote and their methodologies for implementing those policies. I have yet to meet an advocate of (modern) liberalism in government who didn't let it be known that while, perhaps, he was not the one to tell me how best to live my life, the bureaucrats in the agency he was endorsing should do so.

And while I do not disagree that there are many people in government agencies who are experts in their fields and do know more about those subjects than I do, I will not allow even the most benevolent dictatorship over my liberty. If something is true, conservatives and liberals ought to be able to make a better case for it than, “We want to protect you from yourselves.”

(I use ”modern” as a qualifier for liberal to distinguish from classical liberals such as Jefferson, Madison, and Adam Smith.)

Date: 2006/06/08 17:57:58, Link
Author: Spike
Here's a story from our newsbot that demonstrates that evolution is done, and no one has ever seen evolution happen in modern times:


Date: 2006/06/09 08:53:35, Link
Author: Spike
No flame war intended, Ichthyic, but I do admit to a little trolling.  ;)


You will get no argument form me that it is the neo-con faction of the conservatives who interfere in other people’s lives in the ways you list. You left out a few that apply more generally to conservatives as a whole: Putting my hard-earned money into the pockets of some of the most profitable businesses on the planet through corporate welfare, killing thousands and thousands of innocent people in “heathen” lands to protect the interests of big oil and Halliburton, building a giant wall along our southern border to keep out people who are losing their livelihood because of our government’s support of big agra…We could go on all day.

But, lest you commit the lie of omission, which should also break your honesty meter, you need to include in your list the following liberal policies that do affect how you and I live:

It is the liberals who tell me what kind of employment contract I can enter and how much I must get paid, that I have to pay for schools my kids will never attend, that I can’t smoke in a private bar or restaurant (here in WA), that I can’t build on my own land the way I see fit, that I have to pay for a train system I will never ride, and football and baseball stadiums I would never miss (here in WA), that I must participate in a government-run retirement plan that’s unlikely to pay much of anything when it’s time for me to draw, that I have to pay for the campaigns of candidates I would never vote for, and limit my choices on the ballot (well, that one goes for both sides), … We could go on all day.

One important exception to your list is the FDA, started in a liberal era, that -does- tell us what substances we can and cannot put in our bodies – for our own good. Having worked in the biopharmaceutical industry, in the quality control and quality assurance fields, my experience is that many of the rules of the FDA do not make scientific sense. They are merely barriers to entry into the market, designed to keep new companies out and protect the interests of established ones. Many FDA policies have the unintended consequence of keeping effective medicines out of the hands of patients who need them. And, remembering Vioxx, the FDA does not always prevent harmful medications from reaching the market.

There are no FDA investigators looking over the shoulders of bio-tech and pharma employees. It is only the honesty and integrity of those people on a daily basis that gives us medicines that are safe and effective.

There was a request earlier, on another thread, I think, for Wesley to open up an area for more general topics. This discussion does not belong in this thread, since it has nothing to do with UD, but we have nowhere else to put it.

If Wesley wants to dump it entirely as not pertaining to the topic of this board, fine by me. Then, prehaps dhogza can recommend another board where we can continue our discussion, and where Sir_Toejam can join us to diss my "extreme libertarianism."

Date: 2006/06/13 08:47:00, Link
Author: Spike
Dembski drives the bus around looking for the kids in the pro-tec helmets.

Except they are smart enought to avoid him.

Date: 2006/06/16 16:09:14, Link
Author: Spike
Wow! This is amazing. Each quote in the PR is true (in the sense that it was really written) but the entire piece is false (in terms of what it implies).

I wish I could learn to do that! Except I'd use my power for good, I really would.

Date: 2006/06/23 15:14:21, Link
Author: Spike
Here's a cool story about two kinds of "mole rats," the well known naked kind and Damaraland mole rats.

Two species of mole rats run complex societies underground

I found this article when I was reading about the naked mole rats as an example of convergent evolution - my favorite kind - of mammals towards eusocial behavior shown by termites.

Interestingly enough, the similarities between naked and Damaraland mole rats can be called a form of convergent evolution as well, because it seems that, while the two species have a common ancestor, the Damaralands branch off later and are not descendents of the nakeds (if I read the article correctly). To me, that means that the naked branch developed eusocial behavior when it branched off, then many other branches sprouted, none of which were eusocial, then, much later, environmental pressures "turned on" eusocial behavior again. But who knows if it is the same genes that code for the behavior in both? Worth looking into, I think.

What's also interesting is that in any Damaraland colony there is a small group that does 5% of the work and consumes 35% of the food. Just like in human "colonies." Convergent evolution again?

Date: 2006/06/23 15:17:55, Link
Author: Spike
Sorry, the link failed:

Two species of mole rats run complex societies underground

Date: 2006/06/26 17:27:18, Link
Author: Spike
No one else seems to care, Ichthyic. It's not about poking fun at UD. Oh well.

Thanks for the clarification.

The entry for parallel evolution is a little sloppy, however, in saying that the similar morphologies of some placentals and marsupials (Smilodon and Thylacosmilus, in my favorite case) are examples of parallel evolution, then going on to say that the spines of porcupines and hedgehogs (both placentals!;) are convergent.

For the mole-rats, I'll accept parallel, since they are only a few branches apart and live in the same neighborhood.

I think the wiki entry for convergent evolution is a little better done, even in its explanation of parallel evolution.

I like convergent evolution because it shows that the environment plays a big factor in what gets "made" and that certain shapes & behaviors come into being because they are most efficient in that kind of environment.

To me, contrasting convergent, divergent and parallel evolution shows how evolution is stochastic, rather than purely random or purely determinisitic. In a certain kind of environment, there are a wide variety of solutions to the problem of, say, how to take down prey that's bigger than you, but that number of solutions is limited by the environment itself and by the characteristics of the previous generations. You don't know in advance what solution will arise, but you can guess that it's most likely going to be similar to something that has already "worked."

Date: 2006/06/30 06:04:27, Link
Author: Spike
I'm surprised there hasn't been more talk about this in the blogosphere.

I had been paying some attention to the controversy, but figured the critics were as often motivated by the gender and orientation of the late Chancellor as they were by her decisions.

If any of the folks who are more in tune with academia want to comment, I'd be interested in their opinions.